February 3 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Jo Shelley, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021
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2:04 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Mexico issues emergency use authorization for Sputnik V vaccine, orders millions of doses

From CNN's Eric Cheung

Mexico has issued an emergency use authorization for Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Mexico has already signed a contract to receive the Sputnik V vaccine and we're expecting 400,000 doses in February, 1 million in March, 6 million in April and the remainder in May,” he said.

The approval came shortly after Sputnik V was found to be 91.6% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 and 100% effective at preventing severe illness, according to an interim analysis of Phase 3 trial data published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Lopez-Gatell cited the figure in the news conference, adding that the approval was made by Mexico's Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk.

Mexico has reported more than 1.8 million cases of Covid-19 and 159,533 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

1:39 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Saudi Arabia to suspend entry from 20 countries to contain spread of Covid-19

From CNN's Sharif Paget 

Saudi Arabia will suspend entry for visitors from 20 countries, except for special circumstances, to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The suspension will start on Wednesday at 9 p.m., and will be effective against passengers arriving from countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, India and Pakistan.

Diplomats, Saudi citizens, and health practitioners and their families will be exempt, SPA reported, citing an official at the Ministry of Interior.

The suspension will also include people who have visited the 20 listed countries within 14 days prior to entry, SPA added.

2:17 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

WHO team heads to China bat lab at the center of coronavirus conspiracies

From CNN's James Griffiths and Sandi Sidhu

Peter Daszak (R), Thea Fischer (L) and other members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China's central Hubei province on February 3.
Peter Daszak (R), Thea Fischer (L) and other members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China's central Hubei province on February 3. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

A team of World Health Organization investigators in Wuhan are visiting a laboratory Wednesday that has been the focus of conspiracies and speculation about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO investigators began research in the central Chinese city last week, after a 14-day quarantine and bureaucratic delays. Their work has been subject to intense scrutiny and political pressure from both within China and outside the country.

Few places they are visiting are as controversial as a laboratory run by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which officials in former US President Donald Trump's administration suggested, without providing evidence, could have been the origin of the coronavirus.

The lab in question, which is affiliated with the central government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, is the only one in mainland China equipped for the highest level of biocontainment, known as Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4).

BSL-4 labs are designed to study the world's most dangerous pathogens -- those that pose a high risk for transmission, are frequently fatal and most often have no reliable cure, such as coronaviruses.

Lab led by China's "bat woman": The Wuhan lab was created in the wake of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, which swept through China and other parts of Asia in 2002 and 2003.

In particular, the Wuhan lab team led by virologist Shi Zhengli, known as China's "bat woman" for years of virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves, has focused on bat-borne coronaviruses, exactly what the current pandemic is believed to have been caused by.

Bats are a major reservoir for viruses, and though they do not suffer from them thanks to natural resistance, they are known carriers of many infectious pathogens that are devastating for humans, including Ebola, rabies, SARS, and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Current scientific consensus is that SARS-Cov-2, the virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic, also evolved in bats and then spread to humans, potentially with an intermediary animal host.

Read the full story:

1:29 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

US reports more than 110,000 new Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Joe Sutton in Atlanta

The United States reported 110,679 new Covid-19 infections and 3,389 additional related fatalities on Tuesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 26,431,799 confirmed cases and 446,744 deaths.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.  

Vaccines: At least 52,657,675 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 32,780,860 shots administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See CNN's live case tracker.

1:09 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

New Zealand regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong

Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are displayed at a vaccination center in Ludwigsburg, Germany on January 22.
Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are displayed at a vaccination center in Ludwigsburg, Germany on January 22. Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images

New Zealand's medicines regulator has provisionally approved the country’s first Covid-19 vaccine, the government announced on Wednesday.

Medsafe provisionally authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is expected to arrive in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter, according to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

Provisional approval means the pharmaceutical company must meet certain conditions, including supplying more data from its clinical trials around the world as they progress, the government said in a news release. This will happen at the same time as the vaccine is rolled out.

New Zealand “will start vaccinating first border workers and the people they live with," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "People such as cleaners, the nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ (Managed isolation and quarantine), security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers will be among the first to get the vaccine.”

“There is more work to do, we are not out of the woods yet -- but the provisional approval of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is a significant milestone," added Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield.
1:02 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

More than half of Delhi's population has had Covid-19, survey shows

From CNN's Manveena Suri and Esha Mirta in New Delhi

Healthcare workers collect swab samples at a Covid-19 testing and vaccination center at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital on January 12 in New Delhi, India.
Healthcare workers collect swab samples at a Covid-19 testing and vaccination center at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital on January 12 in New Delhi, India. Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

More than half of the population of the Indian capital region Delhi have been infected with Covid-19, according to a major survey conducted by the Delhi government.

“In the fifth serosurvey done, antibodies have been detected in 56.13% of the population. This was the largest survey in any state involving around 28,000 samples conducted from January 15 to 23," said Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain at a news conference on Tuesday.

"The last survey found 25-26% seroprevalence. This means Delhi is inching towards herd immunity," he added.

Daily cases and positivity rates are also declining, Jain said -- but he urged people not to let their guards down.

“I want to urge everyone to continue wearing masks for a few more months," he said. "In the past two months, the compliance has improved substantially, the result of which is there for everyone to see. Covid cases have drastically come down. If people continue to wear masks, we will be able to totally control the virus in the next few months."

The Delhi region is home to more than 19 million people, according to government data.

India's cases: The country reported 11,039 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, according to the Indian Health Ministry. 

That raises the national total to 10,777,284 confirmed cases and 154,596 related deaths.

More than 4 million people have been vaccinated nationwide since the vaccination drive began on January 16, according to the ministry.

12:46 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Number of vaccine doses "are going to be greatly accelerated" in the next 3 months, Fauci says

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says coronavirus vaccine doses available in the United States are expected to increase significantly over the next three months. 

"It's just a question of the production speed and capability of doing it. As we get into middle of February, into March and April, the number of doses that are going to be available are going to be greatly accelerated," Fauci told CNN on Tuesday. 

"Right now, the real compelling thing is that the supply does not meet the demand. So, we've got to get more vaccine into people, and we've got to make sure that we use every possibility of getting doses out there."

As doses become available from companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, “things are going to get progressively better," he said.

Mass vaccination needed: About 70% to 85% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to return to some sense of normalcy by the end of summer or beginning of fall, Fauci said.

But there's the danger that more transmissible variants of the coronavirus could become dominant in the US population. 

"If the variants and the mutations come, and start becoming dominant, then that's going to obviate some of the effects of the vaccine," Fauci said. "The best way to avoid that, is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, because viruses don't mutate if they don't replicate."
12:16 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Many US Marine recruits had been infected with coronavirus, study finds

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Many new recruits to the US Marines this past summer had evidence they had been infected with coronavirus -- a finding that supports the idea that healthy young people may be carrying and spreading the virus without ever knowing it, researchers reported Tuesday.

The team at the Naval Medical Research Center tested 3,249 Marine recruits who were quarantined between May and September, researchers reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. 

They found:

  • About 1% tested positive for coronavirus when they arrived.
  • 9% had antibodies for coronavirus, indicating they had been previously infected.
  • Nearly 18% of Hispanic recruits, and 15% of Black recruits, tested positive for antibodies

Young adults in the US have shown higher levels of Covid-19 antibodies than people of other ages -- but they are usually asymptomatic, and these cases go unnoticed, the researchers said. 

“Our cohort was primarily young adults, many of whom had never held full-time jobs and might not represent essential workers,” they added.
“Among persons 18–20 years of age, low adherence to recommendations for social distancing, wearing of masks, and other public health measures might increase their level of exposure compared with older persons.”
12:02 a.m. ET, February 3, 2021

Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccine works against South Africa variant, Chinese researchers say

From CNN's Maggie Fox

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine in Serbia on January 25.
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine in Serbia on January 25. Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine can inactivate a worrying coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Their study is published online as a pre-print, meaning it has not been peer-reviewed, and includes few details.

Sinopharm’s vaccine, which the company says has been given to 10 million people across China, is a “live” virus vaccine -- meaning it's made using a whole virus that has been inactivated so it cannot cause disease.

The study: The team said they tested 12 samples taken from people who got the Sinopharm vaccine, and 12 samples from volunteers who received an experimental vaccine, against the variant virus.

Both vaccines elicited enough antibodies to neutralize the virus and overcome its mutation, they said.

“These data indicated that (the variant) will not escape the immunity induced by vaccines targeting whole virus or RBD,” the researchers wrote.

The mutation, explained: The virus has a structure called the receptor binding domain, or RBD, which it uses to dock onto cells and infect them. The RBD is the mutated part of the new variant that makes it different from the original strand.

Many coronavirus vaccines, including those made by Pfizer and Moderna, specifically target the RBD -- but a live virus vaccine like Sinopharm's is less specific.